Shaping the future of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant

By Abigail VoegeliOctober 25, 2023

Shaping the future of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A display case of ammunition at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, on August 31, 2023. (Photo Credit: Christine Paul) VIEW ORIGINAL
Shaping the future of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ammunition at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, August 31, 2023. (Photo Credit: Christine Paul) VIEW ORIGINAL

Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, located in Independence, Missouri, is the largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense, turning out over a billion rounds of ammunition per year. This plant is a vital part of the past, present and future of the U.S. military.

Production at the plant started in 1941, during World War II. Currently, it provides the majority of small-caliber ammunition for the U.S. military. It also performs ammunition development for the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program. LCAAP is doing important work, and its partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District is a key part of this success.

Despite its impressive operational track record, the plant does face some challenges — namely, aging facilities and infrastructure.

“There are a lot of World War II-era buildings here,” said Andrew Bowlen, the Kansas City District project manager at the site. “There are Rosie the Riveter posters that have been stuck to the walls for over 80 years now.”

In other words, many of the buildings on-site are very old, and in need of significant repair or replacement. That’s where the Kansas City District stepped in. The district will facilitate major repairs to existing buildings, as well as construction of entirely new structures and supporting systems for the plant.

“This place is due for a major refresh,” said Bowlen. “We’re at the start of that process right now. We’re setting the stage for a few dozen concurrent projects. The first step is to define all the requirements, then proceed with design, and finally we start building … there are potentially billions of dollars that are going to be coming into this plant over the next decade or so.”

The Kansas City District’s projects at the plant include demolition of old buildings, construction of new facilities and designing new infrastructure for a diverse range of functions across the plant. There will also be significant technological updates throughout these projects.

“Some of the technology is very outdated,” said Bowlen. “So, as we’re renovating and constructing these new buildings, we have a glimpse into the twenty-first century with modern methodologies. This could be automation, computer bookkeeping systems and logistics, you name it … it’s all being modernized.”

For the Kansas City District employees working on these projects, the environment is fast-paced and forward-looking. Currently, the many different projects are in various stages of planning, design and construction, and Bowlen estimates that in any given month, the team has about five to ten major milestones across more than a dozen concurrent efforts.

One type of milestone at LCAAP is a charrette, or a workshop conducted to develop the requirements for a project.

“We conduct two types of charrettes [at Lake City]: planning and design,” said Capt. John Beck, a project manager for the Kansas City District. “Each charrette is roughly a three to four day-long meeting where key personnel discuss, determine and describe the design parameters of the project. This requires synchronizing the multiple engineering disciplines involved in the project, such as mechanical, electrical, civil, geotechnical, etcetera.”

These charrettes provide multiple courses of action for the project which provides the flexibility needed for the plant to ensure mission success. They also ensure that the design teams have all the information necessary to start full design efforts.

In addition to the charrettes, other milestones for the project include a wide variety of deliverables.

“The most common deliverables we have inside the program currently are quality control plans, site safety plans, field work plans, schedules and site surveys, which ensure each project is delivered on-time, within budget and safely,” said Beck.

All this work means the team stays very busy at the plant. Their hard work pays off, though. Already, one of the Kansas City District’s projects at LCAAP — a water treatment plant — is 100% complete. Additionally, the district constructed a brand-new emergency services facility for fire, ambulance, security and more for the plant which was completed several years ago. These modern facilities presents a visual of what the rest of LCAAP will look like over the next few years as it continues to modernize.

The wide range of projects the Kansas City District is working on at LCAAP displays the diverse capabilities of the district. For example, a new explosives waste incinerator required a lot of creative thinking on the part of the team to properly site and plan. Similarly, a transfer switch and back-up generator project requires the team to take a holistic look at the entirety of LCAAP and compare their findings to current backup power requirements in order to determine a solution that will better support the entirety of LCAAP.

The biggest project the district has on-site is an automated warehouse and access control point for delivery trucks entering base. The size of the building is roughly equivalent to 10 football fields, Bowlen stated.

In total, USACE is currently in planning and design support for 16 projects at LCAAP. Charrettes for the projects will occur approximately every three to four weeks for the next 18 months. This means that until the summer of 2024, the team there is booked solid. The team’s performance highlights the reason that the Kansas City District is such an important partner in accomplishing these kinds of projects.

According to Adam Hinsdale, deputy to the commander of LCAAP, the Kansas City District was entrusted with these projects for a good reason — they know the Army processes, and they can get things done.

“Ultimately, [we’re] supporting Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in transforming from a functional but antiquated installation into an advanced, highly capable and modern mission-essential pillar of the United States military and our allies,” said Beck.